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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 9/30/15

10 of the Worst Abuses of the Psychiatric and Psychological Professions in American History

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Boarding schools or "residential schools" were established by the United States and Canadian governments in the 19th century and functioned up until 1980 for the purpose of destroying indigenous culture (see Roland Chrisjohn's Circle Game [12] and Ward Churchill's Kill the Indian, Save the Man [13]). In these schools, draconian behavioral-modification "treatments" were utilized.

Dissident psychologist David Walker details [14] American psychologists' use of pseudoscientific psychometrics (including IQ testing) to attempt to establish the inferiority of indigenous Americans so as to justify eugenic solutions such as sterilization--another form of genocide. Says Walker, "It's been a difficult realization to encounter my own profession's complicity in this history, but I try to respond by bearing witness."

5. Enabling Racism and Subjugation of African American

Benjamin Rush, the "father of American psychiatry" (his image adorns the seal of the American Psychiatric Association), typifies psychiatry's history of both racism and hypocrisy about it. In 1792, Rush argued that the "color" and "figure" of African Americans were derived from a form of leprosy, and he argued that with proper treatment, they could be cured and become white. In 1851, Louisiana physician Samuel A. Cartwright attempted to psychopathologize slaves attempting to flee captivity with the mental illness he called drapetomania, for which he devised brutal behavioral modification "treatments."

In the modern era, psychiatry has been used to deprive African Americans of their human rights. When civil rights activist Clennon W. King Jr. attempted to enroll at the all-white University of Mississippi in 1958, the Mississippi police arrested him on the grounds that "any n-word who tried to enter Ole Miss must be crazy," and he was confined to a mental hospital for 12 days. Jonathan Metzl'S 2010 book The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease [15] details how African Americans have been diagnosed with schizophrenia because of their civil rights ideas.

In the early 1990s, the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration unleashed its "violence initiative [16]," which sought a genetic basis for criminal behavior. ADAMHA director Frederick Goodwin compared the "high-impact inner city" to a jungle and its youth to rhesus monkeys who only want to kill one another, have sex and reproduce. By focusing on "biologically vulnerable" youth for psychiatric interventions, including drug treatments, the initiative was essentially depoliticizing as it de-emphasized social explanations for crime.

6. Subverting U.S. Soldiers' Resistance to the Military-Industrial Complex

Nothing was more powerful in ending American involvement in Vietnam than U.S. soldiers' refusal to cooperate with the U.S. military (see the 2005 documentary Sir! No Sir! [17]). However, current American mental health professionals, by way of behavioral manipulation and psychiatric drugs, make such resistance more difficult.

The former president of the American Psychological Association, Martin Seligman, has consulted [18] with the U.S. Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness positive psychology program. In one role-play used in this program, a sergeant is asked to take his exhausted men on one more difficult mission, and the sergeant is initially angry and complains that "it's not fair"; but in the role play, his "rehabilitation" involves reinterpreting the order as a compliment. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer [19], Seligman was quoted as saying, "We're after creating an indomitable military."

According to the Navy Times [20] in 2010, one in six U.S. armed service members were taking at least one psychiatric drug, many of these medicated soldiers in combat zones in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many soldiers in Vietnam, as part of a general non-cooperation, used illegal psychotropic drugs, which alarmed U.S. government officials who were afraid of unleashing illegal-drug using veterans on American streets. But legal psychotropic drugs ubiquitously prescribed in the military co-opts the once rebellious culture of psychotropic use, and the illegal-psychiatric drug hypocrisy [21] promulgated by psychiatry enables the military-industrial complex to deny concerns.

7. Enabling Authoritarian Standard Schooling

As dissident teachers have observed, standard schools are routinely authoritarian institutions that utilize coercions that kill curiosity. John Taylor Gatto, former New York City and New York State teacher of the year, stated [22]: "The truth is that schools don't really teach anything except how to obey orders"; and John Holt concluded, "School is a place where children learn to be stupid ....Children come to school curious; within a few years most of that curiosity is dead, or at least silent." The National Endowments for the Arts reported [23] in 2007 that standard schooling is associated with a decline of reading for pleasure, and Scholastic reported [24] in 2015 that this decline is associated with coercion (choice over reading materials increases pleasure reading).

While coercive and oppressive schooling is not the only pain for young people, it is a major fuel for inattention, passive-aggressive anger, substance abuse, anxiety, and depression, all of which are routinely labeled by mental health professionals as "symptoms" of mental disorders that result in "treatments" (increasingly consisting of medication). So, psychiatry and psychology help society maintain denial of the oppressive, anti-educational nature of standard schooling.

8. Depoliticizing Normal Reactions to Dehumanizing Employment

A June 2013 Gallup poll [25] revealed that 70% of Americans hate their jobs or have "checked out" of them. Psychiatry and psychology help cover up an often alienating and poorly compensated work life by pathologizing--and thus depoliticizing--our normal human reactions to oppressive jobs.

Bureau of Labor Statistics reported [26] that for 2014 the 10 largest occupations in the United States were: 1) retail salespersons (4.5 million); 2) cashiers (3.4 million); 3) combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food (3.1 million); 4) office clerks, general (2.9 million); 5) registered nurses (2.7 million); 6) customer service representatives (2.5 million), 7) waiters and waitresses (2.4 million); 8) laborers and freight, stock, and material movers (2.4 million); 9) secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical, and executive (2.2 million); and 10 )janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners (2.1 million).

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